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George Cukor
Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Whorf, Margaret Wycherly, Forrest Tucker, Frank Craven, Stephen McNally
Writing Credits:
I.A.R. Wylie (novel), Donald Ogden Stewart

The screen's most exciting lovers in their newest romantic triumph!

Spencer Tracy stars as Steven O'Malley, a war correspondent who comes home to write a book about a great industrialist who's died under mysterious circumstances. He hopes to gain insight from the man's wife (Katharine Hepburn), but she is reticent to play along with the reporter.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 4/12/2011

Going to Press “Our Gang” Short
Blitz Wolf Animated Short
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Keeper Of The Flame (1942)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 6, 2011)

Screen duos don’t get more famous than Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn, and 1942’s Keeper of the Flame represents their second film together. On a dark and stormy night, famed industrialist and noted patriot Robert Forrest dies when his car flies off a washed-out bridge. This sends the nation into mourning.

Journalist Steven O’Malley (Tracy) decides to write an inspirational biography of the great man, but this hits some snarls. First, he can’t gain access to Forrest’s widow Christine (Hepburn), as she seals herself off in their estate and refuses to speak to the press. However, he manages to buddy up with the caretaker’s son Jeb (Darryl Hickman) and makes his way into the Forrest compound.

That’s where matters take a turn for the unexpected. When O’Malley investigates, he senses something amiss and believes that there’s more to the story. Did Forrest die in an accident or was foul play afoot?

Having not seen a lot of Tracy/Hepburn films, I went into Flame with a general notion of them as a mismatched romantic on-screen couple. That was the template set with their first effort, 1942’s Woman of the Year, and it persisted with subsequent flicks such as Adam’s Rib.

Perhaps because it’s early in their partnership, Flame falls outside of that preconceived notion. While some supporting characters contribute comic relief – somewhat awkwardly, as those elements feel out of place – the film concentrates on the drama and mystery.

Or at least that’s what it tries to do. Flame creates a decent noirish mood, but its story falters. More specifically, the manner in which it tales its tale sputters, as long passages go without much happening until the movie comes to a screeching halt to allow its characters to throw out important facts.

That’s the main problem here: the way in which Flame develops its material. O’Malley doesn’t seem like much of a reporter; he tends to luck or blunder into news and doesn’t seem able to find out much on his own.

This means the film concentrates on long monologues in which characters reveal significant elements. Rather than have these come out in a more natural manner, the movie simply stops abruptly to get us up to date.

The structure creates an uncomfortable disconnect between its scenes. One minute, it’s a noir mystery, and the next it turns into a war-time appeal for liberty. The elements don’t join together in a neat fashion, so the seams become more apparent.

I do like the opportunity to see Tracy and Hepburn act in something out of their usual wheelhouse. They do fine together; I can’t say that either sets the screen on fire, but they’re perfectly fine in their roles. Indeed, Tracy’s presence probably gives O’Malley more weight than he’s due, as otherwise he’d seem more like a bumbler.

Flame also looks good, as it uses moody cinematography to create a nice tone. Unfortunately, attractive photography, an appealing cast and an intriguing story aren’t enough to carry this film. It’s just too awkward and inconsistent to succeed.

(By the way, I don’t want to tout my own horn, but my synopsis offers a better idea of the story without spoilers than the one in the DVD’s package. That one lets you know a major plot point that doesn’t emerge until four-fifths of the way into the movie!)

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus D

Keeper of the Flame appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not a great presentation, it was usually satisfactory.

The transfer’s main problems stem from print flaws. Quite a few specks and marks cropped up across the movie’s 100 minutes, and these created distractions. The film could’ve been dirtier, but it could’ve been a lot cleaner as well.

Otherwise, the image was good. Wide shots tended to be a little soft, and I noticed some light edge haloes. However, overall sharpness was positive, so the picture provided reasonably solid delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and blacks seemed deep and dense. Shadows were clear and smooth, and contrast looked fine. The source defects were the main concern here, and they made this an average presentation for its age.

I felt the monaural soundtrack also seemed okay for its era. My main complaint revolved around volume, as the audio was mastered much lower than usual; I needed to really crank the knob to get the sound up to a listenable level. I hate to do so - I fear that one random loud scene will blow my ears! – so I wasn’t happy with the quiet nature of the mastering.

Otherwise, the audio was fine. Speech seemed thin but the lines were concise and intelligible. Music appeared acceptably full; the score didn’t have much heft, but it was fine when I considered the era’s technology. The same went for the effects, as they were adequate and suffered from no distortion issues. A bit of hiss came along for the ride, but no other defects marred the track. This was a perfectly average mix for its age.

Only a handful of extras appear here. In addition to the film’s trailer, we get two period shorts. Going to Press (10:47) comes as part of the “Our Gang” series, while Blitz Wolf (9:50) delivers a Tex Avery spoof that assails Hitler and warns the US of the Nazi menace. Neither offers great entertainment, and Wolf is really nothing more than propaganda. Still, it’s nice to have them as additions to the set, especially in the case of Wolf; while not very entertaining, I love to see these war-time cartoons for historical value, and they’ve not gotten a lot of airtime over the decades.

1942’s Keeper of the Flame was the second Tracy/Hepburn effort, and it stands out as atypical for the pair. Alas, that doesn’t make it good; while it’s certainly not a bad movie, it seems clunky and only occasionally involving. The DVD provides acceptable picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. Flame is worth a look as a curiosity but don’t expect greatness from it.

Note that you can purchase Keeper of the Flame on its own or as part of a nine-film set called “Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection”. This includes all of the pair’s movies together as well as a bonus disc entitled “The Spencer Tracy Legacy”. Since the entire package retails for less than $60, it’s a steal for Tracy/Hepburn fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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